Tomorrow night figures to be the best game of the season so far as the red hot Manchester Millrats come to Halifax to take on the Rainmen. Halifax have a tough three game stretch (Manchester at home Thursday then road games against Vermont and Manchester again) and picking up a road win here is an absolute necessity. The Millrats are looking to extend their five game winning streak. One of the most impressive things about said streak: during it they’ve beaten every other team in the Atlantic Division. The winner of this game is leading the Atlantic Division, and in its first year Halifax failed to beat either Vermont or Manchester, so this first win is a big mental hump to get over. All of this adds up to the potential for a real barn burner, unfortunately very few people may be around to see the game – Thursdays are always bad game nights and the weather is supposed to be dreadful.
It’s hard to predict who will come up big for Manchester – they seem to have a different guy go off each night and Ferguson, Salscheider, and Mitchell are all capble of putting up big numbers. But Manchester aren’t really about scoring – they have the best defense in the PBL and held Halifax to just 98 points last time the teams met. They’re leading the league in opponent scoring (by which I means their opponents score less than everyone else’s) by allowing just 96.4 ppg and have given up 100 points or more in only two games – both against that strange Montreal squad. To make matters worse they’ve upgraded their interior defense with the addition of Kenyon Gamble – a big shotblocker. Manchester just play a hardnosed, tough, physical defense – it’s not dirty, but they frustrate teams and don’t give up easy baskets.
So what does Halifax have to do to win this game? I think the key is to get out and run on Manchester. Halifax need to convert on the fast break (i.e. no stupid alley-oops when a lay up is there) and generate turnovers in order to get some easy baskets. Hammack and Ramey are both phenomenal at stealing the ball and pressuring opposing guards and with SirVal out of the picture both of them will probably get some more minutes. Halifax also have to avoid giving up the easy baskets that they’re notorious for – if Manchester are going to make them work hard to score then they need to force the Rats to do the same.
I really see this game as a must win for Halifax – if they’re going to come out and beat the better teams in the league then they’re going to have to start at home. Here’s hoping it’s a great game and that there are actually people in the stands to witness it.